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'At home against England on St Patrick's Day. There's no better occasion to be playing in'

Ireland U20s are looking forward to a big night under the lights in Donnybrook.

Leinster centre Ciaran Frawley.
Leinster centre Ciaran Frawley.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE SIX NATIONS Championship may have slipped from their grasp, but there is no shortage of motivation for Ireland U20s as they prepare to welcome Grand Slam-chasing England to Donnybrook on Friday night.

Nigel Carolan’s side suffered defeat to Wales last time out and while there is no silverware on the line this St Patrick’s Day, there is still plenty to play for, particularly with a World Junior Championship now coming into sharp focus.

In such a competitive squad, the visit of England — the strongest team at this age grade — to Dublin offers Carolan’s young charges the chance to really put their hand up and stake a claim for June’s tournament in Georgia.

It’s the last competitive outing before preparations begin in earnest for the World Cup and centre Ciaran Frawley admits the players are fully aware that the competition for places is a fierce as ever.

“With everyone injury-free, it’s very hard to get into this backline,” he said.

“I feel that this game is a huge opportunity. Every game is an opportunity, but this especially. It’s a home game against a very good opposition. If you perform well, it shows you’re up to the standard, definitely, for this level. If we get a good backline performance out of this, and if we perform well, we’d be looking at a solid backline.

Ciaran Frawley is tackled by Shane Lewis-Hughes Frawley in action against Wales. Source: Camerasport/Alex Dodd/INPHO

“We still want to make an impression as well. We haven’t played to our full potential yet, but I really believe that we can. We can step it up another notch, and on Paddy’s Day especially. To play England at home, with the home crowd there, I really think that it would be a bit of a boost anyway, and it’ll be a bit more of a performance out of us.

“Obviously with the rivalry, it goes back years now. Especially at home on Paddy’s Day, there’s no better occasion to be playing in. It’ll be really good to even perform against them, they’re a very good side. They’ve had a bonus point in every single game they’ve played. There’s a lot to expect from them. Even just a good performance, that’s all we’re looking for, and just put it up to them really.”

Ireland have shown glimpses of their best throughout the campaign so far having come out on top in close games against Scotland, Italy and France. They came out the wrong side of the result in Colwyn Bay last week but management and players believe there have been huge improvements each week.

“Week in, week out, I feel we’re getting better,” Frawley added.

“The matches are getting harder obviously. France was a big step-up then from the two previous games. I think the lads performed very well for certain parts of that game, and I feel like we are getting better every time we go out. Due to good coaching and everything.

Ciaran Frawley The Skerries native has been part of Ireland's exciting backline. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“This week is very big for us. We’re going to work hard this week. I think it’s just about knowing your role now at this stage, and really just pushing on from there.”

While Ireland will be fully focused on their own game and building further on the progress made over the course of the championship, there is also the small incentive of spoiling the English party.

“It would be good spoil that for them, but we’re worrying about ourselves as well. We just want to perform. We haven’t performed to our capabilities yet. We’ve a lot more in us I believe, but I really think we can put it up to the English, and hopefully spoil that party for them.”

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Ryan Bailey

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